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A reader writes: Dennis Pond — Fine teachers victims of nepotism allegation

November 05, 2001

Whoa! Mr. Welsh, there are several assertions in your recent letter to the editor to which I take exception. The individuals you castigate as examples of nepotism are a lot more than related to school administrators. The superintendent's son hasn't taught at the high school for two years. He has been waging a battle against cancer. When he did teach in the social science department, he was admired and respected as a teacher both by colleagues and students. It will be wonderful when he can return.

The deputy superintendent's daughter is teaching in the English department and we share some of the same students. I have seen the improvement her instruction has brought to her students' command of the language. She, too, is respected by her colleagues and students, is diligent in her preparation of lessons and generous with her time for students needing extra help. Additionally, she is deeply involved in sponsorship of extra-curricular activities.

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The high school counselor's family has a long history in Calexico of academic excellence.

As students and teachers, they have a positive reputation.

The mayor of Calexico brings a unique perspective to his social science classes. His expertise was obtained in a hands-on fashion. The high school principal's husband retired from San Diego State University/Calexico last spring. There is nothing special about the relationship between SDSU/Calexico and the Calexico Unified School District. SDSU serves all school districts in Imperial County in the same capacity. To insinuate otherwise is misleading. I don't know to what parents' committee you referred. There are several with differing responsibilities.

California does have some serious problems in teacher recruitment, and those problems are not limited to Imperial County or Calexico. Efforts are being made to recruit teachers from out of state because California cannot meet its own demand.

However, California will not recognize credentials of teachers trained in many other states. Credentialed teachers from those states must take California's credentialing courses. Usually this happens while the teacher is employed as a teacher.

It is not easy for a person to do a good job of teaching students all day, then try to be a student after employment hours. I've always wondered why anyone would do that. Many California teachers start to teach before their teacher education is complete. I'm amazed that people today consider a career in public education at all. Who else is subjected to that kind of professional abuse?

Mr. Welsh, you besmirch a lot of Imperial County residents who have striven mightily to obtain a college or university degree and have met with success. Volumes could be written about those stories. Not by a long shot have all of those successes come from families of the upper social echelon.

The simple possession of a California teaching credential does not guarantee a good teacher. It ought to, but it doesn't; and probably to about the same degree that a class A driver's license doesn't guarantee a safe truck driver. I imagine there are about as many poor teachers as there are poor lawyers, doctors, accountants, plumbers and so on.

One school administrative responsibility is to help teachers improve, and when improvement is not forthcoming, to remove them. That must be painful and I don't suppose too many administrators enjoy it. In my prejudiced opinion. Our teachers' union, California Teachers Association/National Education Association, has not always done our profession the most good by making it so difficult to remove ineffectual teachers. I've watched so many for so long it is refreshing to see some of the young people new to the profession doing so well.

Several Imperial County school districts have recent experience with administrative practices both vindictive and abusive toward teachers. Those examples are just common enough to give good teachers pause for contemplation when considering the need for a union.

As our generation approaches retirement, I wonder if my former students pursuing careers in music education are doing so because they think they will like doing what I do or because they think they can do what I do better than I have. That is a sobering thought that comes back to haunt me.

Our society needs good teachers; those teachers must have the respect of students and parents. Our society has lost the respect for education as a profession it had 30 to 40 years ago. Until that loss is restored, the future of public education in California is in jeopardy. And perhaps on that, Mr. Welsh, we can agree.

DENNIS POND is a Brawley resident who teaches music at Calexico High School.

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